In November, Tony Shelton, professor of entomology at Cornell University and renowned expert on insect and pest management, spoke extensively to HWS students about pest management and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Shelton works at the New York State Agricultural Experimentation Station and spoke to students in Professor of Biology Thomas Glover’s Senior Seminar “Genetics and Society.”
Shelton, who travels all over the world for his research and consultation work regarding genetically modified plants, insecticide use and other insect and pest management related issues, talked to students about the current status of GMOs and their benefit to people, especially in providing enough crops to aid in sustaining the world’s population. He reported that current-day GMOs are safe for human consumption and are helping farmers and producers of agriculture worldwide ward off pests and increase yields. He also spoke on the benefits of the engineered crops, as well as some weak criticisms.
One example of a GMO he provided is of the plant that is known as Golden Rice that will be released around the year 2012. This rice is bio-fortified, meaning in contrast to regular rice it is designed to be enriched with vital vitamins and minerals; these vitamins and minerals will help alleviate some of the dietary issues in poor countries where the lacking nutrients lead to disease and death.
Shelton also brought with him samples of GMO and non-GMO plants to demonstrate the stark contrast between the ones that had been engineered to kill pests and those that had not. These plants helped to make it clear how beneficial it was to utilize modern farming technologies in order to control pests. The GMOs are much safer, not only for humans, but are also safe and do not impact the environment in the way in which pesticides do.